- Grand Duke George of Russia proposed to his girlfriend Rebecca at an airport in Brussels.
- They kept it a secret for five months, longer than most royals wait to announce an engagement.
- George and Rebecca are used to keeping details of their relationship private.
- Rebecca’s parents found out about her relationship with George from a magazine.
- Meet other royals from around the world by reading more of Insider’s Royally Told profiles.
Grand Duke George Mikhailovich of Russia originally planned to propose to his longtime girlfriend, Rebecca Bettarini, in front of their parents last year. But the coronavirus pandemic had other plans.
Not only were George and Bettarini separated from their loved ones during lockdown, but the engagement ring – a royal heirloom the Grand Duke was given by his mother – was locked in a safe in Belgium.
The couple spoke to Insider about the whirlwind proposal, and their plans for a traditional Russian royal wedding.
Bettarini’s parents discovered her now-fiancé was royal when they found a photo of the couple in a magazine
As second in line to the defunct Russian throne, the Grand Duke’s royal status is far from obscure. His godparents are the King and Queen of Greece, and he is a descendant of Queen Victoria – making him a distant relative to the British royals.
Bettarini told Insider she knew who George was from the moment they met. Her father is the Italian Ambassador Roberto Bettarini, and so she was used to attending events with royals and diplomats from around the world.
“The first night we met was at a ball that was very popular in Europe with members of nobility, so of course I knew it was him,” Bettarini told Insider. “Let’s say I didn’t know, but it comes out so quickly. The first time we dated, we went out to a party, and everyone was like, ‘Your Highness, Your Highness’ and taking pictures.”
However, her parents found out about her relationship with George through the press.
“The first time we went out, the first picture we have together was shot by a magazine. That’s actually how my parents found out,” she said.
“It’s hard to keep it quiet!” George added.
After living together for six years in Brussels, the couple now permanently reside in Moscow, where Bettarini works as the director at the Russian Imperial Foundation, which George founded in 2013. She also writes fiction novels under the pen name Georgina Perosch.
George and Bettarini managed to keep their engagement secret for 5 months after getting engaged at the airport
The couple traveled from Moscow to Brussels in August 2020. Bettarini believed they were only in the city for a 24-hour layover before catching another flight to visit George’s mother, The Grand Duchess, in Madrid.
After secretly collecting the ring from the safe, George planned to propose to Bettarini over dinner that evening in Brussels. But she accidentally spoiled his plans by inviting a friend to join them.
“Then the next day we were catching a flight to Madrid, and he wanted the proposal to be in Brussels because it’s where we were dating and lived together,” she said.
“And so I did it at the airport!” George laughed.
“You can imagine the airports nowadays are completely empty,” Bettarini added. “He said something funny, he said our best trips have started here. So this is also a trip – a lifetime trip.”
The couple made the engagement official in December, after getting permission from George’s mother, the Head of the Imperial House.
However, they waited until January 2021 to make the news public. George said they were considering keeping it private indefinitely due to the pandemic.
“Unfortunately due to the COVID restrictions, we weren’t sure when was an appropriate time and thought it would be strange to announce it,” George said. “But now in Russia, at least things are looking up with the vaccinations, and cases are diminishing and stabilizing. If not, we’d probably have never told anyone.”
The Grand Duke said he will be the first Russian royal to get married in his home country since the Revolution in 1918, which resulted in the assassination of Tsar Nicholas II, his wife, and their children, after more than a year of being held captive by the Bolshevik secret police.
The couple, who hope to marry in the autumn of this year, said the wedding will be “traditional royal, traditional Russian” and will involve “a lot of protocol.”
“We can use the opportunity of our wedding to show the nice side of Russia, the beauty, the culture, and the history. And to also help tourism get back to its levels if we’re allowed to travel,” George said.
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